Authors: Gierut JA, Champion AH
Title: Syllable onsets II: three-element clusters in phonological treatment
Source: Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 2001 44(4): 886-904
Year: 2001
Research Design: Single Case Design

This study extends the application of the Sonority Sequencing Principle, as reported in J. A. Gierut (1999), to acquisition of word-initial 3-element clusters by children with functional phonological delays (ages in years;months: 3;4 to 6;3). The representational structure of 3-element clusters is complex and unusual because it consists of an s-adjunct plus a branching onset, which respectively violate and conform to the Sonority Sequencing Principle. Given the representational asymmetry, it is unclear how children might learn these clusters in treatment or whether such treatment may even be effective. Results of a single-subject staggered multiple-baseline experiment demonstrated that children learned the treated 3-element cluster in treatment but showed no further generalization to similar types of (asymmetric) onsets. Treatment of 3-element clusters did, however, result in widespread generalization to untreated singletons, including affricates. Moreover, there was differential generalization to untreated 2-element clusters, with individual differences being traced to the composition of children's singleton inventories. Theoretically, the results suggest a segmental-syllabic interface that holds predictive potential for determining the effectiveness and effects of clinical treatment as based on the notion of linguistic complexity.

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